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Meet Sara Woods

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara Woods.

Hi Sara, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I initially wanted to be a youth basketball coach. Although I could teach the fundamentals of how to play the game, I didn’t know the rules. So, I decided to (first) become a referee. I figured learning the rules would help me teach the kids how to play the right way.

My officiating journey began in 2008. I signed up with the (state) high school association and a couple of local organizations. I was in a development program that operated on weekends during the regular season. However, in the off-season, there were limited spaces (locally) to continue my training, based on my goals and aspirations. So, I traveled across the country to attend an instructional camp. After 5 days of intense training, I fell in love with refereeing. I understood that consistent practice was the key to my growth.

When I returned to my area, I was excited to apply my training to the games I accepted during the summer. However, I wasn’t always paired with partners who had aspirations to become students of the game. I was lacking a dedicated mentor who would hold me accountable for making every rep count. and I became frustrated.

I continued going to camps and went on to become a varsity, collegiate, semi-pro, and pro-am official. Eventually, I began working more as a mentor in the local organization’s development leagues. This allowed me to coach new officials and lead by example.

Because of the strain officiating had on my personal life, I limited my (weekly) schedule to only college, semi-pro, and pro-am assignments, while working weekends as a mentor in the development league. I was encouraged to work on “bigger games” by one of the high school associations. However, my schedule would not allow it, and I had found my purpose in mentoring.

Eventually, I parted ways with a local association because we couldn’t come to an agreement regarding my availability for high school games. It was at that time that I made the decision to become a personal coach and work directly with officials who needed help navigating their journey in officiating.

During this transition. I spoke with another local assignor and mentor, to ensure my decision to recruit, train, and sustain officials would be supported. I was told that it was a great idea and wished they (specifically) had more time to develop a program for officials.

I eventually launched the BIG GAME teaching map. This blueprint is based on the principles and core values needed to become a highly sought-after official.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
With everything there are challenges. Initially, I was discouraged because my efforts were met with resistance or disregard. However, everyone’s motives are different. It’s my goal to leave the game in a better place than I found it, by building a pipeline to every level in officiating.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I’m a mentor and coach for basketball officials at the grassroots level.

I develop customized programs based on the goals and objectives of each referee who comes to me for guidance. The title BIGGAME is an acronym for Build your vision, Intentionally look the part, Get in the game, Get the call right, Articulate the story, Move with a purpose, and Embody BIGGAME thinking. These principles are used to help set the standard and ignite opportunities in sports officiating.

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
I envision more visibility for refereeing in all sports. Better training and retention, as well as succession planning. I would like to own and operate an academy or trade school for officials. This will enable subject matter experts for ALL sports to use the teaching map to train officials in their respective sports.

It is my desire to offer scholarships and sliding scale rates to low-income communities for training. This will enable anyone interested in refereeing sports to join the community, without the financial challenges that come with the upfront cost of equipment and training.

Contact Info:

  • Email: Sarawoods@biggameofficials.com
  • Website: https://www.biggameofficials.com
  • Instagram: @Biggameofficials
  • Facebook: Biggameofficials
  • Twitter: @Biggameofficials
  • Youtube: Biggameofficials

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